On The Airwaves

Pink Think: “You turned on the radio and heard all kinds of things.” – Luc Ferrari

I feel like my creative life is a radio nowadays. I turn the knob and some stations come in loud and clear, some are really muddled, and some I don’t even get with all the static.

For a while last month, my “novel” station was coming in loud and clear. It still does, and often, I find myself thinking about the plot while I run (I have taken up running and love it. Fodder for another post.). It is very much alive, and today I wrote some more.

Lately, though, the “songwriting” station is just dominating my airwaves.

It’s kind of fun, running this morning and coming upon a tree branch with bright green leaves of spring, and my mind was searching for a lyric, but…

I form my fingers into a cross to ward off a song inspiration. I have a book to finish, dang it! Maybe I will write it into my journal, so I can write this song someday.

Georgie asked me in an earlier blog post if I found writing songs to be easier than writing in general. The nice thing about songs is, I can have a finished piece in about a day, whereas a novel is like a marathon, delayed gratification.

Here’s my songwriting process:

I start with an emotion or idea for a song. I sit with my guitar and pluck a few chords. (There’s something magical about cradling a guitar and just plucking out sounds, it’s so intimate and relaxing.) It helps to have a hook so I can work that into the chorus. Then I make a list of phrases that will support that idea. I cringe over the un-subtle lines, but I have to start somewhere. It’s gold if I stumble onto a phrase that is more poetic and layered.

Then I start forming a pattern in the song, humming a potential melody. I don’t actually come up with the final melody until I try out different chord combinations. Which pretty much involves GCAD in some form or another which I used to be ashamed of, but there is virtue in simplicity I have decided.

Then my sweet patient family gets to listen to it at least three times. First, when I am so stoked about my idea I just have to share even with blanks in the verses, second when I figure out how to fill the holes, and the third, when it’s all complete. And usually even then, it’s never really complete until I’ve sung it for a few days in a row, when I smooth out the bumps.

Other than self-expression right now, I have no ambition for my songs. An open mic somewhere down the road, maybe. My dad said I should get a professional to arrange them, and I nod my head and smile, but to be honest, I am not seeking that right now. I’m just glad to share them with whoever would listen.

The hard thing is, I’m getting a lot of “songwriting” interference in my “novel” station. And then there’s also my “newspaper gig” station, where every couple of weeks, I put on my op-ed hat and think of an issue that I am passionate enough to write about. So that rattles around in my brain, too. It’s enough to drive me batty. When they all come together at the same time, I feel like just shutting off my creative brain. Silence, please!!!

I get in that silent spot when I run, sometimes. I just run and run and run, just listening to my breathing going in and out, and the ground underneath as one foot goes in front of the other. Like meditation.

When I’m done running, I feel like I’m ready to listen again.

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